Strand-on-the-Green is an often overlooked part of West London but its riverside location and pretty houses make it one of Chiswick’s most charming areas. Many of the houses date from the 18th century but its history goes back much further.
In the Museum of London you’ll find pottery dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as Roman artefacts, collected by local antiquarian Thomas Layton. In the medieval period fishing was the main industry, with rights granted by Henry II to the Prior of Merton. Later the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s allowed locals to fish there for an annual rent. It was the arrival, however, of Frederick Prince of Wales (1702-1751) and his wife Augusta that increased the popularity of the area - even more so when a bridge was built connected Kew with Brentford.
In the eighteenth century its most famous resident was the German-born court painter Johann Zoffany (1733-1810). He was a friend of David Garrick and painted a number of royal portraits. He and his second wife, the teenaged Mary, settled in Strand on the Green and we believe she remained there while he spent 6 years in India. On his return he painted ‘The Last Supper’, for which he used local fisherman as models. It’s now in St Paul’s Church, Brentford. Zoffany is buried in Kew. It wasn’t just artists who came to Strand-on-the-Green.
Ever since the Scottish poet and dramatist David Mallet lived here in the 1740s, writers have found inspiration or happiness here. Margaret Kennedy, author of ‘The Constant Nymph’ lived at No. 1 and used the house for one of the most romantic scenes in the novel. Further along, Geoffrey Household of ‘Rogue Male’ fame lived at No. 29. During the Coronation he single-handedly roasted a whole deer on Oliver’s Island! But Strand’s most famous writer was probably Nancy Mitford, who moved to Rose Cottage in 1930.
It is believed she wrote ‘The Pursuit of Love’ here though she set no scenes here. After her divorce from Peter Rodd she left the house but always remembered it fondly.
One of the absolute pleasures of living near here are the many riverside pubs, and there are three quite close together. The City Barge claims to be the oldest but what you see today is mostly post-War. Its main claim to fame is that it features in the Beatles’ film ‘Help’, when Ringo is confronted by a tiger - although that scene was filmed in Twickenham Studios.
I count myself lucky to live in such a pleasant neighbourhood - and give tours of it now and again.